I started this blog 3 years ago, with a desire to be authentic, expose my real struggles as a Christian and share my faith in God, so that I might encourage others and bring glory to His name, as well as shatter any expectation that Christians are perfect. We are not, but by the grace of God, we are forgiven. This next story is not an easy one for me to tell, but I believe it needs to be told.
There are many stories in my past, none of which, reveal who I am, but they have all made me who I am. I feel like I played so many different characters in my life, due in part, to my own insecurities. My attempts to find my identity became a lot like shopping for clothes. I’d try them on, only to realize how grossly mis-fit they were, but not before getting stuck in them. Getting out usually involved ripping them off and unfortunately, many hearts were left in need of a great mender. Thank God, there is one.
I have not talked about this particular story much, mostly because I’ve denied it having any relevance in my life at all. For 25 years, it remained, as I saw it; a wasted fragment of my youth much too embarrassing to talk about. But God has a gentle way of revealing the significance of everything in my life to teach and draw me closer to Him. And at 45, I can now say with confidence that nothing is ever without meaning or purpose. So, here it goes…
Once upon a time, there was a young girl who began ‘shopping’ for identity, purpose and love to fill her empty closet. She was 18, raised in a Christian home and preparing for high school graduation when she met a popular college pastor at a church in San Diego. In her very young and naive eyes, he was a leader and she was drawn to him, like a groupie to a rock star. He was 10 years older and many thought she’d never gain his attention, nor should she try, due to many arguable reasons. But because she was a determined little girl, she set out to prove them all wrong. However, her passion became an obsession that she misinterpreted for love and devotion, that ultimately led to marriage at the age of 20. She thought she loved him. She also thought she loved God, but at that age, love for man or for God are not easily understood.
Before this man proposed to her, he was offered a job as Sr. Associate Pastor at a mega, inter-city church in Kansas City, MO. with one requirement; he had to have a wife. So, in the blink of an eye, she went from a Senior in high school to the Senior Associate Pastor’s wife living in Kansas City, Missouri, with a closet full of ugly church clothes! She had no idea what she was doing, nor what was about to happen. But because of her determination, she committed herself to her new role, for her new man and for her God. She sang, she spoke, she prayed, she served, she sat through 5 services a week, waited in darkened hallways while her husband counseled people. She ate alone, went to bed alone, wore her hair in ridiculous buns and dressed in her oversized, Kansas City church clothes, more suited for a woman than a young girl in her early 20’s. No more bikinis, no more giggling at boys or running through the mall with girlfriends. This was her life now and she quickly realized it was not who she was, nor what she wanted at all. She’d look at the stranger in the mirror over and over and ask, “who are you?”. She felt completely and utterly lost. After 3 years of this life, she finally broke and ran…far away.
Yes, that girl was me. I spoke in third person, because for the past 25 years, it was not my life. It was someone else’s. I refused to own it. I was too embarrassed and ashamed of how foolish and immature I was. I hated who I became and the way in which I abandoned it, blaming everyone but myself, believing I was the victim. I was not a victim. I was an immature and prideful little girl who thought I knew best, ignoring the advice of those who loved me and tried to stop me. I couldn’t admit I was wrong and the consequences where far too great, so I ran like a coward. The man I married was not a bad guy, although I believe he married me for all the wrong reasons. Even still, I’m sure I shattered his world as he hoped it would be. I spent a lot of time dealing with that truth, and admitting my responsibility in it, but not without first having to face and erase the resentments I had developed towards him, the church and God while in Kansas City.
The politics, hypocrisy and judgement are far too common in many churches. It’s unfortunate, but understandable, since nobody that ever walks into a church is considered perfect. But even more unfortunate, is when people put people on a pedestal and judge you for not living up to their expectations. They put their faith in church or leaders, rather than God. People will always fail, but God never will. Of course, none of this was learned by me back then and I was one of those I just described who had a lot of unrealistic expectations. And when everything came crashing down, I misjudged the church and everyone associated with it. I remember one morning at church, someone criticized my dress for being too short, saying, “as a pastor’s wife, your dress should be below your knees”. I was shocked at first, then hurt and then really angry. I was so consumed with what she thought of me, nothing but bitterness grew in my heart.
Over time, I sought more to please people, instead of God. I tried to be what they wanted me to be instead of who God wanted me to be. More criticism came about my clothes, my hair, my makeup, something I said or did or didn’t do right. I lived in a fish bowl, as others freely looked in to cast their stones and I was not mature enough to handle it. Don’t get me wrong, there were many genuine people who cared about me, but I simply let the bad outweigh any good. Finally, one day, after going out to my car and finding a note that said “IF you were really a christian, you wouldn’t drive 40 in a 25 mph zone.” That was it! I had enough of these critical people playing church and trying to be good enough for them. I resolved in my heart, that I was NOT the right girl for this job. Knowing I didn’t truly love my husband, combined with feeling unfit and unloved, myself, I left everything behind, clothes and all.
The year that followed, I not only found myself running from that life, I ran from my family, from God and from any involvement in church. I hid behind my resentments, justifying every one of them. I only saw myself as a failure. I began crossing moral boundaries that I previously had set, until I found myself looking at the stranger in the mirror once again, asking the very same questions. “Who are you?” I was still very lost, but now clothed in shame and I couldn’t run from myself.
I began to see the real problem was not the church or God, but it was me. The young girl was lost because she tried filling her empty closet (her heart) with a wardrobe unfit for her (man’s approval). She desired garments of value, worth and significance, that were readily available to her for free, from a loving and gracious God, but instead bought the counterfeits, trying to uphold the law without a real relationship with Christ and it cost her a great price.
Today, I believe God, in all His sovereignty, allowed that young girl to get to such a desperate and lonely place, naked with all her insecurities, to reveal to her that He is greatest security of all and to begin to see herself through His eyes: A child of the King, fearfully and wonderfully made, with purpose, loved, bought with a price and clothed in His righteousness. She is me. I was lost, but now am found.
I don’t carry any resentments towards that church or any church, because my faith and security are in Christ alone. I hope people forgive me for the pain I’ve caused. I attend my local, humble church with gratitude, rather than judgment! I show up with a hunger and thirst for righteousness, for HIS name’s sake, not man’s. If I am judged by a brother or sister in Christ, I will not harden my heart, as I once did, but I will, instead listen for the conviction of His Holy Spirit in me. (Good-intending people are not always right, but it doesn’t mean that God can’t still use them to speak to us).
We all have skeletons in our closet that we’re afraid of facing, but from my own experience, it’s worth the effort to clean up our spiritual house before the smell of rotten bones take over. What have I learned from all of this, that I hope to share with you? Know who God made you to be and be authentic. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t try to please everyone; just know that you won’t. Have confidence in Christ. Don’t follow people; follow God. Don’t blame others for your circumstances, instead take responsibility for your own actions and let God deal with the rest. (There will be times we fall victim to someone else’s bad choices, but we can still have victory in Christ Jesus our LORD. Romans 8:27 In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.)
Don’t hold resentments. Judge not, lest you be judged. Forgive and pray for those who hurt you. Don’t blame God when bad things happen. It’s human nature to fail and make mistakes, and the consequences of those mistakes often ripple into the hearts and lives of others. It’s part of life and growing up, but KNOW that growing up and growing mature are not equal. If we are not learning from our mistakes, and making positive changes, then we are just getting good at making bad decisions, while getting old and more stupid. If you want to know what God wants from & for you, then ask HIM. Don’t believe everything people tell you. Ask HIM for discernment and know God’s written Word, so His wisdom is written in your heart. Don’t let the voice of man override the voice of God. Seek with all your heart to know HIM and HIS truth and the Truth WILL set you free.
(Disclosure and apology: I am still a student of these lessons and in my last blog, I posted a photo that was perceived, by a reader, as offensive and he felt it discredited me as a Christian. I explained that it was merely symbolic of an emotion relative to the story about my sister. I must admit, it triggered some of these old feelings, so I edited the photo, but it also gave me the courage to write this post, so for that I am thankful for his comments and concern for my walk with God. I sincerely hope I’ve not offended anyone else and pray that no one lets their disappointment in me, push them away from the only true, living and perfect God).
1 Peter 1:3-7 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.